Hey. Or should I say, konnichiha! Yes, we’re in Tokyo. Which I have to say is pretty damn exciting. But before I can leave our micro-sized apartment and launch myself on yet another unsuspecting populace (“You want to photograph my stockings?”) here’s the third and final LA story…
(Well, short story that is. I started late and finished early – and found the streets even more deserted of humankind than in the last two weeks. Grrr.)
Having ‘done’ Latino in week one and then artist/hipster last week, I wanted the final LA post to focus on a black neighbourhood. Which in LA means south – which in turn means potentially dodgy as. My inner thrill seeker was all, yeah, go to South Central (as in riots), go to Compton (as in hip hop NWA’s ‘Straight Outta Compton’).
But when I mentioned this to people, they’d be all, “honey, I’m black and I wouldn’t even go there”.
Bravely/stupidly I ignored their advice. But aside from snapping a few churches and a man called Clyde, I didn’t dally – not because I felt unsafe but because it was kind of nondescript.
I finally ended up just south-west of downtown LA in a black neighbourhood called Limert Park, the ‘centre of African-American culture’. While I completely failed to capture said culture in the five seconds I spent there, I did stumble on an interesting church congregation and a couple of cars…
Part 1: You gotta have faith
While I’m not religious, I do love a black church – like the one I met sweet Flossie at in NY.
So I went in search. Starting with a couple of tiny, almost hand-made looking churches in South Central…
Coco and I stuck our noses in the church above – where we met Tasha, below – before being given the third degree by one of the organisers. We were in South Central I guess…
Then it was onto Limert Park. Third time lucky…
Unlike the two South Central churches we’d seen, New Life Ministries looked nothing like a house of worship. I would’ve driven straight past it in fact had it not been for the intensely bright LA sun, lighting up the canary yellow outfit worn by a member of the congregation, Casandra. This is what caught my eye…
I circled back, raced out of the car and found Casandra – “You, madam, are a vision. May I take your photograph?”
As I walked into the small room, I quickly realised Casandra wasn’t the only vision. Here was a handful of people who took their Sunday best seriously…
The colours and patterns were even more intense when they stood or sat near the door’s blinding light.
The incredibly friendly and warm Casandra explained that for her, church was everything.
I suspect dressing up comes a close second.
The church is small – around 20 people – but it appeared to have at least three preachers as well as the Bishop. But just because you’re a holy man doesn’t mean you can’t look sharp…
As I was photographing the guys, Brenda wandered over to them and suddenly burst into song – with the most beautiful voice.
Part 2: Random people in Limert Park
Starting with HD and Ishonay. HD told me he was a famous rapper. He had me going until I questioned him again – “Nah, I’m at school, studying to be a psychiatrist.”
I don’t know why I asked them to put their foreheads together – but later that day, just around the corner from where I photographed the couple, I found a similar image…
On another visit I met a gaggle of girls, living around the corner from the main street in Limert Park.
Part 3: Classic cars
You gotta have wheels in LA. Even if they’re small…
On our last visit to the area, after meeting Casandra et al at the church, Coco and I wandered over to Limert Park just before sunset – only to find that the place was in full swing, with a market and drum circle in the neighbourhood park, and a line-up of classic cars across the road from there. Suddenly, after days of nothing happening and no-one around, there was too much to shoot – the light was about to go so I chose the cars. But as soon we got over there, the LAPD turned up and told the cars to stop clogging the street and move on. I had time to take two or three shots only. Blah!
Los Angeles – a much more interesting city than I’d imagined but a bugger to photograph.
Part 4: The woman in the red turban
So that was Limert Park. But before we leave the neighbourhood I want you meet one last person – 80-something Margaret. It was her red turban that first attracted me but it’ll be her blue eyes that I’ll always remember. That and her cussin’.
As I said, it was a particularly short week which meant hardly any time at all to explore – I barely scratched the surface of Limert Park and wished I could’ve seen more. But I loved meeting Casandra and her congregation, as well as feisty Margaret. And those cars. Petrol guzzlers they may be but they are just so cool.
On the ‘home front’
When I arrived in LA, my opinion of the city was pretty low – a gateway to somewhere else much more appealing or a necessary stop-over on the way back to Australia. Three weeks later I’m starting to realise that it’s a city that requires much peeling back of its layers to reveal its full charms. LA – it’s not a dump (or the moon) – it’s an onion.
Many thanks to our friends, Fiona, Steve, Katie and Jacob. And to Esmeralda, our GPS – I’m not kidding when I say I could not have survived LA without you.
So, adios LA and konnichiha Tokyo! As soon as I hit ‘Publish’ on this post, Coco and I will be out the door. Having never been here before there is much to explore. I can’t wait to show you…
This suburb has been brought to you by Shirl and Vaughan
See you next week.